Q&A with Alice Glover, L’Oreal

Do you think you can succeed in business with, for example, an arts degree?

I’d be the poster girl for not needing a business degree, because I studied Classics. It was Ancient Greek, Latin and Philosophy, so nothing immediately transferable to the modern world. But I made the case that I had learnt transferable skills – quick thinking, efficiency, distilling huge amounts of quite complicated information into simple essays twice a week. So I’d say you definitely don’t need a business degree; if you’re bright and a quick learner, you’ll be fine.

What was the most challenging obstacle you overcame to get to where you are now?

For me it was lack of confidence. At first I had imposter syndrome, thinking “why is everyone listening to me?” when I stood up to present.  But my Dad told me to act like someone who knows what they’re talking about and then slowly, as you begin to learn, listen and ask questions, the substance will come to meet the image that you are giving off.

How can people who are naturally shy succeed in client facing roles?

It sounds basic but practice. You’ve got to think: I’m here for a reason, I’m here because I’m bright and have something to add to this meeting. The only way to get better at presentations and overcome shyness is to keep practicing and asking to do more.

How have you dealt with the conflicts and setbacks that happen in business – and have you learned from your mistakes?

When you’re all working very hard in a pressurised environment, people get stressed with each other – it’s only human. I’ve learnt to take myself out of the situation, and go and talk about it to someone whose opinion I value outside work. All you can do is try and figure out why that other person got stressed and how best to diffuse the situation and move on, as you have to work with these people all day long.

Do nice people get anywhere in business or do you have to be selfish to succeed?

I think it’s a myth that you have to be selfish to succeed. I also don’t think you have to choose between being respected and being liked. If you excel at your job, but you make sure everyone else is happy around you – and you build great relationships – then your work is going to go so much more smoothly because people will want to help you.

What makes a good worker stand out from the rest?

Articulate yourself in a really clear way and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Big businesses are fast paced and competitive but very meritocratic. You might feel like you’re not sure what’s going on, but if you can see ways to do things better, more efficiently or more cheaply, then don’t be afraid to say so and people will respect that.

What are the most impressive questions interviewees have asked you at the end of an interview?

I think anything that shows a real interest in the industry. You don’t want to ask questions for the sake of asking questions, it’s more that you are really curious about your role or really curious about the market context.

  • Alice Glover

About the author

Alice was studying the Classics at Oxford when agent Curtis Brown signed her as a professional actress. Her time at university was then divided between the study of Ancient Greek, Latin Literature and Ancient History, and student drama, TV and film acting. After graduating, Alice joined L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics company. She then to moved to L’Oréal’s Luxury Product Division and spent four years working on the Yves Saint Laurent brand. Most recently, Alice has been working on the Lancôme brand, managing its skincare category and enjoying the fast-paced, meritocratic and entrepreneurial culture.